Obama Administration Awards Blackwater New Contracts

Blackwater Receives New Iraq Contracts

Blackwater–the notorious mercenary firm formed by West Michigan native Erik Prince–has been awarded a new $22.2 million contract. That contract will keep Blackwater–which the Iraqi government has determined can no longer legally operate in Iraq–until September of this year. According to the contract, Blackwater will provide “security personnel.”

Another contract uncovered by Jeremy Scahill–who wrote a definitive book on Blackwater–indicated that Blackwater recently received $45 million from the U.S. government for “protective services–Iraq.” That contract has an estimated “Ultimate Completion Date” of 05/07/2011.

Clearly, both contracts raise major questions about Iraqi sovereignty and the extent to which the United States takes seriously the Iraqis wishes.

Blackwater recently announced that it is changing its name to “Xe” in an effort to improve its reputation. For several years, the company has been the target of negative publicity for its work in Iraq. This criticism reached its culmination with the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 civilians at the hands of Blackwater contractors.

Since then, the Iraqi government has greatly restricted Blackwater’s capacity to operate in Iraq. It has denied the company a license to work in the country, which is a result of widespread Iraqi opposition to the contractor’s presence.

Erik Prince Resigns as Blackwater CEO

West Michigan Native Erik Prince has Resigned as Blackwater CEO

Erik Prince–the West Michigan native who founded the private mercenary company Blackwater using money from the Prince family fortune–has resigned as CEO of the infamous company.

Prince announced that he will no longer be CEO of the company, instead he has appointed a new president. Prince will stay on as Chairman but will no longer oversee day-to-day operations.

Blackwater recently rechristened itself “Xe” and is in the midst of a rebranding and restructuring effort following the loss of its coveted State Department contract in Iraq and the continued negative publicity following the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Holland’s Prince Family Continuing to Fund the Religious Right

Holland’s Prince family is continuing to fund the religious right through its family foundation according to research by Mediamouse.org.

As part of ongoing updates to Mediamouse.org’s Far Right in West Michigan database, we have updated the listing for the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. According to the most recent IRS records available, the foundation donated thousands of dollars to religious right and other rightwing organizations in 2006. Some of these organizations include:

* The Acton Institute–a rightwing economic “think-tank” here in Grand Rapids received $100,000.

* The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious right legal group, received $35,000.

* The Freemont, Michigan based American Decency Association received $5,000.

* The American Family Association received $5,000.

* The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is most well known for downplaying the existence of global warming, received $5,000.

* Concerned Women of America, a prominent religious right organization, received $1,000.

* The Council for National Policy, a secretive organization that has historically acted as a venue for coordinating strategies across the religious right, received $45,500.

* The Grand Rapids, Michigan based Education Freedom Fund received $100,000.

* The Family Research Council received $168,500.

* The Free Congress Foundation received $10,000.

* The Muskegon, Michigan based Gospel Communications International received $300,000.

* The Midland, Michigan based Mackinac Center for Public Policy received $25,000.

* The Michigan Family Forum received 2006.

The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation is operated by Elsa Prince, her son Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater), Betsy DeVos, and Edgar and Elsa Prince’s other children. The foundation has funded religious right organizations for years and has been particularly important in providing support for the Family Research Council.

Blackwater CEO Avoids Having to Deal With the Press

On Monday, Erik Prince–West Michigan native and founder of the mercenary company Blackwater–delivered a highly scripted presentation about his company’s work to members of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids and the general public.

Yesterday, May 19, the Economic Club of Grand Rapids hosted CEO and founder of Blackwater Worldwide, West Michigan native Erik Prince. The event–which was sold out–was open to members of the Economic Club, the media, and members of the general public who paid $35 for tickets. Prince spoke to an audience of 750 people in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and was seated at a table that included David Van Andel, Richard DeVos, and Dick and Betsy DeVos. Erik Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, introduced him and told the audience that Erik’s life work has been to “protect those who are vulnerable.” There was time for a few questions at the end of the talk, but the media was not allowed to ask any questions and Prince declined to answer at least one of the questions posed to him.

Prince used a PowerPoint presentation for his talk. Its cover page had an image of a military base with bold text that read, “In Support of Security and Peace Everywhere.” Prince began his talk about trying to convince the audience that the use of private military contractors is nothing new and has been part of the US military since the Revolutionary War. He cited several examples including Sir Walter Raleigh, but his favorite example was that of Prussian militarist Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben. Prince also mentioned that some of the original firefighters in the US were private contractors, as were some US counterintelligence groups like the Pinkertons. He told the audience that the Pinkertons helped spoil a plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore, but failed to mention that the Pinkertons were hired spies for “the Robber Barons” of the 19th and early 20th century and that they were hired to infiltrate and target organized labor.

Next, Prince turned his attention to Blackwater Worldwide and stated that they train 35,000 military/law enforcement personnel annually. He explained that their facility in North Carolina is used by local law enforcement all the time and that consequently it is not “secretive” as Blackwater’s critics charge. Prince then mentioned Blackwater’s involvement with an Afghan counter narcotics program, but fails to mention that since the US invasion of 2001 Afghanistan has become the number one producer of heroin. He also went out of his way to mention that Blackwater flew 11,000 missions in Afghanistan in support of US military last year and that they delivered Christmas packages to the troops. “Some people say they support the troops, well, we really support the troops,” Prince said.

Prince discussed other services that Blackwater provides, including a new vehicle they have developed called the Grizzly Armored Personnel Carrier, which he claims would better protect US troops from roadside bombs. Prince said that he hopes the Department of Defense will invest in their product.

The rest of Prince’s presentation consisted of defending what Blackwater does and how they exist to serve American interests. Prince said that 90% of their employees take an oath to the US and that despite the claims that his private contractors commit abuses, “we go above and beyond what is required” with government accountability. Prince stressed that Blackwater believes in “market efficiencies” and that his organization is best equipped to provide training and logistical support for the “new style of warfare that is being waged around the world.”

Prince ended his presentation by talking about all of Blackwater’s “humanitarian efforts,” from rescuing US troops to providing disaster relief aid. He even told the crowd that just a few days earlier while in Holland, he received a phone call from three missionaries from West Michigan who were in Kenya. They asked Prince if he could assist them in getting out of that country, since tensions had increased in recent months.

The 40-minute presentation by Prince was over and those in attendance filed out of the room. In many ways, this event was a perfect opportunity for Prince to speak to a crowd that was most likely sympathetic to the work of Blackwater, not so much on partisan terms, but because of the company’s “free market” claims. Prince said at one point during his talk that Blackwater was nothing more than a “robust temp agency.”

Unfortunately, for the public, the press was not able to able to engage the founder of Blackwater, instead we were sequestered upstairs where we would not even be within eyesight of the war profiteer. Moreover, the press was not allowed to use cameras or tape the event. Prince was therefore able to avoid having to talk about the shooting of Iraqi civilians last September that led to a Congressional investigation. Prince’s ability to avoid public scrutiny also means he could avoid talking about his support of and ties to far right groups such as the Family Research Council.

Over the past two years, Mediamouse.org has done numerous stories on Blackwater, Erik Prince, and the Prince family including analyses of the media’s coverage of Blackwater and an interview with Jeremy Scahill, the author of the acclaimed book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Click here to read more.

Iraq Blackwater Contract Extended


On Monday, the State Department announced that it is extending its contract with Blackwater for an additional year. Under the contract, the private military company will continue its role protecting State Department delegations in Iraq despite its involvement in several controversial incidents, including the killing of seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. Despite an ongoing investigation by the FBI and the military’s labeling the killing “a criminal event,” there have been no charges against Blackwater and many have argued that contractors–who operate outside of Iraqi law and are not covered by US military tribunals–are largely exempt from any oversight. Still, the Pentagon recently charged one contractor in Iraq under military law–a Canadian-Iraqi citizen who worked as a translator and is accused of stabbing another contractor in Iraq. Two other contractors have been punished under US civilian law, but no contractors have been punished for crimes harming Iraqis.

Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, who is a native of West Michigan, will be speaking in Grand Rapids on May 19 to the Grand Rapids Economic Club. Prince will speak at a luncheon open to members–who pay between $150 and $380 per year–of the Club. The general public, despite paying millions to Blackwater since its founding, is not invited.

Blackwater Founder to Speak in Grand Rapids

According to reports in various local corporate media outlets, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater USA will be speaking in Grand Rapids on May 19. Prince, who is a West Michigan native, will speak at a luncheon organized by the Grand Rapids Economic Club. According to the Grand Rapids Press, the speech was arranged by Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, who is on the board of the Economic Club. The luncheon is open only to members of the economic club. Media reports said that it is unclear if Prince will take questions and none mentioned if media will be allowed to cover the event. Erik Prince generally tries to stay out of the public spotlight and rarely makes public appearances or grants interviews.

For many, Blackwater–like Halliburton–has become one of the most well-known private contractors assisting the US occupation of Iraq. An estimated 150,000 private contractors are currently in Iraq and more than 1,100 have been killed. Blackwater, a private mercenary army, has been involved in a number of controversial incidents involving the killing of Iraqi civilians. Moreover, Blackwater has been awarded several lucrative contracts, including providing security for former head of the occupation L. Paul Bremer.

Last year, Jeremy Scahill, author of the book Blackwater: Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army spoke in Holland, Michigan. Mediamouse.org has a video of his speech as well as an interview for those seeking additional information on Blackwater.

Congressional Committee Investigating Possible Blackwater Tax Evasion

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Today, Representative Henry Waxman, chairperson of the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Erik Prince, chairperson of Blackwater USA informing Prince that he is concerned that Blackwater may have engaged in “significant tax evasion.” In a 13-page letter, Waxman writes that:

“I have received documents which suggest that Blackwater may have engaged in significant tax evasion. According to an IRS ruling in March 2007, Blackwater violated federal tax laws by treating an armed guard as an “independent contractor.” The implication of this ruling is that Blackwater may have avoided paying millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and related taxes for which it is legally responsible.

Unlike DynCorp and Triple Canopy, the two other major private military contractors providing security services to the State Department in lraq, Blackwater classifies its armed guards as independent contractors rather than as employees. Under federal tax laws, this classification has important ramifications. Businesses must pay Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for their employees. They must also withhold federal income taxes on their salaries. By classifying its armed guards and other personnel as independent contractors instead of employees, Blackwater has apparently evaded withholding and paying these taxes.”

When you testified before our Committee on October 2,2007, Congresswoman Norton asked you why Blackwater treats its security personnel as independent contractors, while your competitors treat their guards as employees. You responded that Blackwater treats its guards as contractors because you found “it is a model that works” and because your guards prefer the “flexibility” of an independent contractor relationship.

Since the hearing, I have learned that the IRS determined in March – six months prior to your testimony – that your classification of a security guard working in Afghanistan as an independent contractor was “without merit.” The IRS advised that “[y]ou are responsible for satisffing the employment tax reporting, filing, and payment obligations that result from this determination.” By its terms, the IRS ruling applied only to the individual security guard who protested his classification, but the IRS warned that its ruling “may be applicable to any other individuals engaged by the fum.” The logic of the ruling would appear to apply to your entire workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is also evidence that Blackwater has tried to conceal the IRS ruling and the evasion of taxes from Congress and law enforcement officials. The IRS determination was issued in response to an inquiry by an individual security guard who questioned his classification as an independent contractor. In June, Blackwater required this employee to sign a nondisclosure agreement before it agreed to pay the back pay and other compensation that he was owed. The terms of this agreement explicitly prohibited the guard from disclosing any information about Blackwater to “any politician” or “public official.” The agreement further provided: “THE UTMOST PROTECTION AND NONDISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION IS OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE AND IS THE ESSENCE OF THIS AGREEMENT.”

It is difficult to read the IRS ruling and the nondisclosure agreement and not question Blackwater’s intent and actions. V/hen the IRS issued an alert in2004 warning employers not to “incorrectly treat employees as independent contractors,” the IRS Commissioner described the “[f]ailure to pay employment taxes” as “stealing from the employees of the business” and said that “those who embrace these schemes face civil or criminal sanctions.” Yet it now appears that Blackwater used this illegal scheme to avoid millions of dollars in taxes and then prevented the security guard who discovered the tax evasion from contacting members of Congress or law enforcement officials.”

The letter further informs Prince that Committee is investigating the matter and seeks a number of documents from Blackwater relating to the issue.

Erik Prince and his Family Significant Backers of Republican Politicians from Michigan

Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince has been a significanter supporter of the Republican Party, continuing a legacy of generous giving to the Republicans by the Prince family. For decades, the family has given significantly to Michigan and national political causes.

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Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince, a native of West Michigan’s Holland, hails from the politically influential Prince family. For years, the Prince family has been influential in both Michigan politics and national politics by distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to primarily Republican candidates for office. These contributions to candidates come in addition to significant contributions to nonprofit organizations seeking to shape the public policy agenda in Michigan and the United States. While those contributions are not the focus of this article, Prince family foundations including the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, the Freiheit Foundation, and the Eagle Foundation have disbursed millions of dollars to rightwing organizations.

Over the past several years, Erik Prince’s political contributions have received some degree of scrutiny in the media, although there has been little coverage of these contributions in West Michigan. While Prince lives in Virginia, he has consistently made donations to political candidates and committees in Michigan. Prince has contributed to $2,500 to the campaigns of Pete Hoekstra, the US House Representative from his hometown of Holland. Prince contributed $3,000 to the campaigns of former Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham as well. Prince also contributed $3,400 to the Dick DeVos gubernatorial campaign in 2006. Interestingly, DeVos–who is Prince’s brother-in-law–visited Blackwater’s North Carolina headquarters during his campaign. Prince has also contributed $10,000 to DeVos’ Restoring the American Dream PAC that has funded Republican candidates around the United States. Prince has also made significant contributions to the Republicans on the national level, including a $68,000 contribution to the Republican National State Elections Committee in 2000, $25,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004, and a recent $20,000 contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee. According the Center for Responsive Politics, his federal contributions have totaled $226,750 since 1992.

Erik Prince’s political contributions follow in the footsteps of his parents, Edgar and Elsa, who made significant contributions to the Republicans during the past several decades. Before his death in 1995, Edgar Prince gave $25,000 from 1993 to 1994. This includes $6,000 to the Ottawa County Republican Committee, $4,000 to the Kent County Republican Committee, and $1,000 to the Michigan Republican State Committee. Prince also gave $2,000 to former Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham’s campaigns.

Edgar Prince’s widow, Elsa Prince, has continued the family’s legacy of supporting Republican causes. Since 1992, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that Elsa Prince has made $153,493 in political contributions. These include $20,000 in contributions to the Republican Party of Michigan, at least $36,000 to the Ottawa County Republican Committee, and thousands of dollars given to Republican Party committees across the United States. The Restoring the American Dream PAC run by Prince’s son-in-law Dick DeVos received at least $25,000. Prince has supported candidates for federal office from Michigan including Representative Pete Hoekstra ($2,250), former Senator Spencer Abraham ($4,000), and Senate candidate Mike Bouchard ($6,300). At the Michigan level, Prince has supported numerous candidates including gubernatorial candidates Dick DeVos and Dick Posthumus ($3,400 each), Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land ($2,000), and State Senator Bill Hardiman ($1,000). Her current husband, Ren Broekhuizen, has also made $66,972 in contributions to political candidates and parties at the national level since 2001, in addition to $2,800 in contributions to candidates in the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives.

In addition to the contributions of Erik Prince, the Prince family’s other children have also continued the family’s legacy of giving significant amounts of money to Republican politicians. None of the family’s children have been as involved in Republican politics as Betsy DeVos, who has held leadership positions within the Michigan Republican Party. DeVos has been a career activist for much of her life, participating in a number of public policy efforts including the national and Michigan campaigns for school vouchers. DeVos was a 2004 Bush campaign “pioneer”, raising $100,000 for President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. In 2006, DeVos gave at least $127,196 to her husband’s campaign for governor, while in 2003 she gave $475,000 to the Michigan Republican Party. She has given $25,981 to federal candidates according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including $2,000 to former Senator Spencer Abraham, $4,000 to Representative Vern Ehlers, $1,000 to Tim Walberg, and $36,000 to Joe Knollenberg.

Of her family’s role in funding Republican Party politics, Devos once said:

“[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party….I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections.”

The Prince family’s Emilie Wierda, daughter of Edgar and Elsa and sister of Betsy and Erik, has also made contributions at the state and national levels. At the state level, Wierda has contributed $3,400 for the DeVos for Governor campaign, $1,000 for the Smietanka for Attorney General campaign, $1,000 for the William Van Regenmorter for Senate campaign, and $100 for the Bill Huizenga for State Representative campaign. Since 1992, Wierda has made $32,850 in contributions at the federal level, including $10,000 to Dick DeVos’ Restoring the American Dream PAC, $3,000 to former Senator Spencer Abraham’s campaigns, $1,000 to Mike Bouchard’s campaign for Senate, and $6,000 in contributions to Gary Bauer’s Campaign for Working Families PAC.

The Princes other daughter, Eileen Ellens, has also given to Republican candidates. She has contributed $1,000 to Representative Pete Hoekstra and $1,000 to family friend Gary Bauer’s 2000 presidential bid, as well as $5,000 to the Campaign for Working Families and Restoring the Dream PACs. At the state level, Ellens contributed $3,400 to Dick DeVos 2006 gubernatorial campaign, $1,500 to entities related to Wayne Kuipers Senate campaign, and $500 to Andy Mulder’s judicial campaign.

Blackwater Founder Sued over Iraqi Deaths

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Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights announced that it is suing Blackwater on behalf of an injured survivor and the estates of three men killed in a September 16 incident in which Blackwater killed 16 Iraqis and wounded 23. The suit names several entities–including Blackwater founder and West Michigan native Erik Prince–as defendants in the case. The lawsuit claims that Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated United States law and “created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.” The lawsuit further alleges that Blackwater violated the federal Alien Tort Statue in committing extrajudicial killing and war crimes, and that Blackwater should be liable for claims of assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision.

The case, if it goes through, will likely reveal unknown information about Blackwater USA. The Center for Constitutional Rights legal complaint in the case repeatedly asserts that “reasonable discovery” is likely to reveal more information about the corporate structure of Blackwater, killings by the company, and its employment of foreign mercenaries. Moreove, the complaint alleges that Blackwater founder Erik Prince formed a variety of different Blackwater corporate entities–including Prince Group LLC–“to shield Erik Prince from any legal and financial consequences for his reckless indifference to the laws of this and other nations.”

Holland Native and Blackwater Founder Testifies before Congressional Committee

Today, West Michigan native Erik Prince–CEO of the mercenary firm Blackwater USA–testified before a congressional committee exploring the role of Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, West Michigan native Erik Prince, who is the founder and CEO of the controversial mercenary corporation Blackwater USA, testified in Congress before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Prince–a former Navy SEAL who hails from the politically-connected Prince family of Holland–has a history rooted in rightwing politics, interning in the White House of the President George H.W. Bush and at the Family Research Council. Shortly after his father Edgar Prince died unexpectedly in the mid-1990s, Erik Prince founded Blackwater USA and quickly grew the company to become the most prominent “private security” (mercenary) corporation contracted by the United States.

Blackwater USA has drawn the attention of various investigative journalists since March of 2004 when four of its men were killed by insurgents in Fallujah. Since that time, journalist Jeremy Scahill has written numerous articles and a book on the company, exploring its role in Iraq as well as post-Katrina New Orleans. However, it is Blackwater’s involvement in a recent massacre of at least eleven Iraq civilians on September 17 that has the company in the news again. Erik Prince has for years sought to maintain a low public profile, rarely granting interviews and only occasionally speaking out in public about his company, as he did earlier this year in a “guest column” published in West Michigan’s largest newspaper (The Grand Rapids Press) after the paper published a feature articles on Blackwater. However, with the recent shooting Blackwater USA has drawn increased criticism.

Erik Prince himself was asked to appear before today’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and delivered sworn testimony in response to questions from the Committee. Prince began by reading a prepared statement in which Prince described Blackwater’s work as “supporting our country” along with the obligatory appeals to the ideals of patriotism and service. He asserted that Blackwater USA has never lost an individual in its protection, although thirty of its own mercenaries have been killed. Prince explained that while his company is already legally accountable for its actions under a variety of statutes, treaties, and jurisdictions, that the company supports further oversight. Prince rejected media claims that Blackwater USA responded inappropriately on September 17 arguing that “Blackwater and its people have been the subject of negative and baseless allegations reported as truth.” Prince further stated that “to the extent that there was loss of innocent life, let me be clear that I consider that tragic. Every life, whether American or Iraqi, is precious.” He claimed that while it is appropriate to discuss greater oversight of Blackwater USA “…it is quite another to attack the very brave men and women who voluntarily risk their lives on the front-lines each day serving in a very difficult situation at the request of their country and in defense of human life.”

While Prince spoke of a specific incident and framed the shooting in the larger context Blackwater’s operations, the Committee raised questions about this larger context. Prince said that of the 1,873 diplomatic security operations conducted by the company since January of 2007, weapons were shot in less than 3% of operations and in less than 1% of the 6,500 diplomatic security operations conducted in 2006. However, Committee Chair Henry Waxman issued a memorandum to the Committee revealing that Blackwater has engaged in 195 “escalation of force” incidents since 2005 (an average of 1.4 per week), including 160 in which Blackwater USA fired first. According to Waxman, Blackwater’s own documents show 16 Iraqi casualties and 162 incidents of property damage as a result of its actions. With regard to its State Department contracts, Blackwater reports more shooting incidents than two other contracted companies–DynCorp and Triple Canopy–combined. Waxman’s memo also raised questions about incidents in which a drunken Blackwater employee shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President and brought up the fact that the company is charging the federal government $1,200 per day for each “protective security specialist” employed by the company.

Following Prince’s statement, the hearing began with questions about a November 27, 2004 incident in Afghanistan when a plane flown by Blackwater personnel and carrying three US service members crashed. An NTSB investigation concluded that the pilot acted unprofessionally. Prince defended the pilot, arguing that conditions were rough and that he was unaware of the pilot’s level of experience. He further stated that the company was never fined as it was pilot, not corporate error.

The conversation quickly segued into questions about the company’s work in Iraq. Prince explained that the company is ultimately accountable to the State Department and that while it has different “rules of engagement” than the United States military, it has defined procedures. Prince said that Blackwater’s vehicles have instructions in Arabic for other drivers to stay 100 meters away. Failing that, if a car approaches, Blackwater will provide further warnings using hand signals, then firing non-lethal weaponry, then shooting the radiator, then the windshield, and finally the driver. Prince also said that he could not defend the actions of a drunken Blackwater USA employee who shot and killed a guard to the Iraqi vice president. Under questioning from the Committee over how Blackwater handled the shooting–the company fired him and shipped him out of the country–Prince said that all Blackwater could do was fire the employee and pass the information along to the State Department.

Throughout the hearing, Prince mentioned that Blackwater USA had none of its protected dignitaries killed. Responding to questions about the deaths of Iraqi civilians, Prince said that Blackwater USA has never killed Iraqi civilians. Prince blamed deaths in incidents involving Blackwater USA on ricocheting bullets. Prince admitted that in one incident the company was encouraged to make a $5,000 payment for the accidental death of an Iraqi.

At various points, Prince was questioned about oversight and accountability. In his opening statements, Prince mentioned that he believes Blackwater is held accountable via a number of legal frameworks including the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the War Crimes Act. However, in detailed questioning about these laws, Prince seemed unclear as to whether or not they really governed his company’s conduct. He further said that contractors could not get a fair trial in Iraq when questioned about contractors’ immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.

During the hearing Prince was also questioned by Congressman Dennis Kucinich about how Blackwater was able to obtain so many military contracts. After showing a chart detailing the growth of Blackwater’s contracts from $25 million in 2003 to $593 million in 2006, Kucinich asked if the company had ever contacted the White House, to which Prince replied “not to my knowledge.” In continuing this line of questioning, Kucinich asked if the DeVoses–the wealthy West Michigan family to whom Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is married into–had contacted the White House on behalf of Blackwater. Kucinich combined this question with another one about no-bid contracts, and Prince made no comment on the DeVoses, instead choosing to answer that he did not know if other companies were being considered for similar contracts. The DeVos family came up again when Congressman Darrell Issa asked Prince if his sister was Betsty DeVos, describing her as a “pioneer” fundraiser for Bush and characterizing Blackwater as “Republican-leaning,” to which Prince replied that his company is “non-partisan” and that it “affiliates with America.”